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As Bat Population Falls, Bug Infestations Could Rise

This article is more than 11 years old.

A plummeting bat population in Massachusetts could increase insect populations and cause problems for crops across the state.

Boston University professor Thomas Kunz says "white nose syndrome," a fungal infection, has killed more than one million bats in the Northeast in the last few years.

"These one million bats, in one summer, eat up to their body weight a night in insects," Kunz said. "If you extrapolate that over a million bats, that amounts to about 694 tons of insects."

That, said Kunz, could put crops at risk, since bats eat many bugs that ravage crops.

New England Wildlife Chairman Greg Mertz said the decline in bats could also lead to more mosquitoes.

"One of the principal predators of insects that are carrying things like eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus is being taken out of the mix," Mertz said.

Mertz says humans — and chemicals — may need to step in to stay on top of mosquito control.

"It raises the specter that we need to intervene with sprays and things that hurt not just the mosquito population but also hurt all the insect populations," he said. "It interrupts the food web."

This program aired on August 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.